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Suffering a stroke at the age of 24 would send anyone into despair and shock. But for Neil Zouaoui it was even more challenging because to this day the now 36-year-old Mount Martha resident hasn’t been given a medical explanation of why it happened. The unknown was and is still concerning. The care he received was second to none, yet only knowing a clot formed and not knowing why has sparked Neil to raise money for brain research. 

“Thankfully, Neil made a full recovery from his stroke, but there are many others out there who have not, which is why we were inspired to take on this challenge and contribute to the wonderful work of both the Queensland Brain Institute at The University of Queensland  and Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation,” said Neil’s wife, Tara.

This month, Neil and Tara will weave their way along the country’s most iconic tracks as part of the National Fire Industry Association Patron’s Annual Walk to raise funds for the QBI and GMRF. The event runs from Thursday, October 17, until Monday, October 21. QBI is focused on unlocking the mysteries of the brain to understand and treat diseases including stroke, dementia, motor neurone disease, anxiety, and depression, while the GMRF intends to investigate and integrate new and innovative treatments and interventions to enhance the health and well-being of veterans and their families.

“If there’s anything I can do to give back, I’ll do it in the hope that in the future there can be someone in my position who is able to be informed of what caused their stroke,” said Neil. “It is very important to me. It’s a matter very close to my heart.”

In preparation for the five-day hike, Neil jokes that they’re just going in hoping that age will be on their side. But in reality, Tara attends the gym regularly while Neil plays soccer three times a week and is one of the head coaches at Mount Martha Soccer Club. Neil was also an avid soccer player when he had his stroke 12 years ago — fit and healthy when, without any warning, he suffered a stroke in the middle of a supermarket. He was told that an area of his cerebellum, which co-ordinates and regulates muscular activity, was dead, yet the brain is so remarkable in that it creates new pathways around the damaged brain tissue. He’s a very lucky man and has gladly taken part in trial testing when asked. His recovery period was eight weeks, and now he’s fully recovered. 

Neil and Tara will be joining a group of seven other determined hikers, including Afghanistan veteran Commando Tim Thomas. They’ll tackle the 50km journey along the Great Ocean Road, letting their feet do the talking as they continue to raise much-needed money for QBI and GMRF. Together, the hikers have already reached their goal of raising $150,000 but will endeavour to smash their goal even more for the good cause. 

The small group, bound by a desire to raise awareness, will be led by Aurora Adventures. Together they’ll hike approximately 10-15km a day over the spectacular route through national parks full of tall forests, coastal heathlands, wild rocky shores and windswept clifftops. It’s a gruelling track that presents amazing views as nature will unfold in front of them at every step.

Neil and Tara would appreciate the community getting behind them to assist with their goal of raising $3000. Donate at


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